Something I am passionate about is traveling. I love other cultures and learning about different types of people and places. I didn’t really travel much growing up though, and definitely have never lived alone with a family who did not speak english. However, with the strangest combination of excitement and nervousness, I applied for my passport, packed a backpack, boarded a plane, and left the country for my first time ever to begin this adventure. Little did I know all the adventures this journey truly would hold.
Peru was amazing. My time was spent full of tours of the city, weekend hikes and excursions such as Machu Picchu, lots of dancing, eating great food (sometimes a bit odd, but still great), psychology classes and research, and phenomenal Spanish classes taught by Peruvians. I experienced so many amazing things, and I saw such simplicity, sadness, and joy. Peru is beautiful, and it’s an extraordinary place to see cultural differences. I was able to compare many experiences to the ideas in my own culture and society in the United States. From there, I was able to begin to break away from my natural, ethnocentric way of thinking.
A difference that really sticks out to me is the children there. Any day you walk around town, you will likely be approached by a child trying to sell you something. These kids are so young and it was heartbreaking for me to see. However, it is normal and culturally acceptable in Peru. Children work to help support themselves and their family. It is necessary for survival.
Through my psychology class, I was able to see Peruvian children from even another perspective. We went to two different schools, one in the city and one rural school. This was yet another amazing experience and an opportunity to make great comparisons. First, we went to the school right in the city of Cusco. This was a large, all boys school. We arrived during their recess time and let me tell you, these kids have got some pretty awesome soccer moves. Then I sat in on a second grade class. The class was large and definitely difficult for just one teacher to maintain that amount of students. The other school we went to was in a rural area, about an hour long bus ride outside of the city. This school was smaller, and it had both boys and girls attending. Here I sat in on a fourth grade class. This class size was much smaller and therefore, it was certainly easier on the teacher. The rural school was very interesting to me. These kid have to walk sometimes up to an hour just to get to school, and then typically school ends earlier in the day because children have to walk that long way back home and many must then work. The children in these schools are there to learn, and I believe they definitely appreciate learning more when I compare them to my fourth grade self. I think kids in general are just absolutely amazing. They’re genuine and authentic. Kids ask the coolest questions and just enjoy life in simple ways. These Peruvian children were kind and respectful, and they looked at me with such curiosity in their eyes. I’m thankful for the chance to spend time with them.
In both schools we spent time sitting in and observing classes. In addition, we also were able to ask some questions and do some psychology research with individual students. We set up situations in order to observe children performing piagetian tasks. We did tests on conservation of number, conservation of liquid, conservation of mass, conservation of length, and false belief test (theory of mind). This was a very unique experience for me, especially due to the fact that these conversations were all in a language other than my own. Being able to ask these psychology questions in spanish to Peruvian children is a memory I know I will hold on to.
I am amazed by my life story and everything I have experienced so far. Going to Peru certainly added to that. I like being uncomfortable sometimes. I think I learn so much more that way. I found myself feeling very present in moments in Peru, which is something I’m constantly striving for but is usually difficult for me to achieve. My Spanish got so much better in such a short amount of time. And I gained confidence even through simple things, like bargaining with taxi drivers. I learned so much in my time traveling and met some of the most interesting people from all over the world. And I think that’s what life is about… people. I’m grateful for all of my experiences, the highs and the lows (special thanks to the people and my professors, who really helped me out in my lows). This trip certainly did not turn out how I expected it would, but I surprisingly don’t think I would change a thing.2016, Cusco